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September 25, 1999

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Down Under Prices

You probably know the Olympics start next September in Australia. Airfares, of course, will be at their highest then. If you're just as happy watching the games on TV, but still want to visit that part of the world, you can save money by going before the Olympics. Air New Zealand kicked off this sale, and Qantas and United soon followed. You can not only visit Sydney for less, but also Auckland, New Zealand, and the tropical island of Fiji between mid-April of next year and August 23rd. Here's the catch: You have to buy your tickets by November 29th.

Let's check the numbers. Right now, if you buy an advance-purchase, round-trip ticket between Los Angeles and Fiji, you'll pay about eleven hundred dollars. But this sale gets you there for 599 round trip. L.A. to Auckland goes for $699. Sydney, $799, more than $400 less than the current price. There are reasonable add-on fares from other major cities. You have to stay at least seven days, but when you're flying that far, you'll want to stay at least seven days. If you do have Olympic fever, you can catch the opening days if you time it right. Since the deal allows you to stay up to 30 days, you can return from Sydney as late as September 21st--six days after the Olympics begin. Or just loll around a beach on Fiji or hike the hills of New Zealand. Whatever you decide, the airfares are right, right now.

Down under prices, way down! That's my Deal of the Week.

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Earthquake in Taiwan
Last week's earthquake in Taiwan was just the latest in a series of natural disasters across the globe. Of course, you can't predict these kinds of events, but whenever you travel, it's good to take some basic precautions. I asked Ann Ailwin, who arranges tours for Geographic Expeditions, what she does when she travels. Are there ways to minimize unforeseen risks?

Ailwin: "Well, I would always go equipped with the embassy contact information and also know where you're going. I'd bring a credit card. I'd bring a supply of cash. I would always travel with a basic first aid kit and some basic medications."

In Taiwan, newer buildings suffered the worst damage and some collapsed, including a 78-room hotel in Taipei. The airport is open, with some commercial flights coming and going. But the U.S. State Department is warning travelers to cancel all but the most necessary trips to Taiwan for at least the next few weeks.

Boeing's 737 Jets Undergo Examination
Here in the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board is sounding its own warning. It's about the rudders on Boeing's 737 jets: mechanical problems can sometimes cause the rudders to malfunction. Last Saturday, an American Airlines pilot said his plane's rudder started moving uncontrollably during an otherwise safe landing. He refused to fly until they grounded that plane.

The N.T.S.B. is saying efforts to fix the rudders, a problem since the planes first rolled off the assembly line, have so far failed. But Boeing and the F.A.A. downplay concerns. They cite the 737's safety record, which is one of the best. The safety board wants the F.A.A. to consider more costly measures to fix the rudders, including a complete mechanical redesign.

Airlines Lower Fall Fares
Well, there is some good news if you're planning to travel this fall. Airfares are coming down. Way down. This week Delta cut all its domestic and some international prices by as much as 35 percent. Most of the major U.S. airlines followed suit. And Air France is offering bargain seats to Paris if you buy your ticket before October 5th. There are some restrictions on these deals, but there's nothing like a price war to lift my mood, especially with all this other travel doom and gloom.

Airport Divas
And what's with these pop divas? Last week a British airport finds out Tina Turner songs scare away birds. Now, a Heathrow security guard says Diana Ross assaulted her. Well, Diana wasn't charged with a crime, and she says despite the incident, she'll remain all hugs for her fans.

Travel Advisory
by Jessica Smith

Continued Health Concerns Follow Floyd
Hurricane Floyd is long gone, but health problems remain. With dead livestock, water treatment plants flooded out and some areas still without electricity and drinking water, health officials on the East Coast are worried about typhoid, cholera and E. Coli. It's considered a short-term problem for residents and travelers through the area, but one they're watching very carefully there.

Malaria on Uprise
And the World Health Organization is warning against malaria, in Europe of all places, where the number of cases has jumped over 400 percent since 1981. The disease is reaching dangerous levels in parts of Turkey and the former Soviet Union. The W.H.O. warns travelers to take basic precautions, like wearing long pants and mosquito repellent while there.


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